What Is Xanthan Gum?

Wow, transitioning into a gluten-free diet has been a roller coaster ride. Not only do I have to read every food label, I've also had to overhaul my love of baking. While browsing through my new gluten-free cookbooks--looking for a recipe that uses "normal" ingredients--I keep stumbling across the need for xanthan gum.

I want pancakes! Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Since I'm not a fan of preservatives and artificial flavorings, I had to make sure xanthan gum would fit into my new healthier lifestyle. Well, it does!

Xanthan gum is a plant-based thickening and stabilizing agent, according to WebMD. After trying to make my favorite old recipes with gluten-free flour, I can now appreciate the usefulness of xanthan gum. It gives baked goods more texture and rise.

For example, homemade pancakes made simply by substituting rice flour for wheat flour turned out like flat, rubbery crepes. Gluten-free pancake mix that included xanthan gum created fluffy, delicious pancakes!

I'm armed and ready.

I have my first packet of xanthan gum waiting for me in the kitchen pantry. I can do this. I can cook from scratch using this stuff. But, I need your help! Have you baked with xanthan gum? Can you recommend any recipes, hints or tips? Thank you!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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21 comments:

  1. Sorry, I've never baked with it. But I seem to remember an episode of Good Eats where he used it.

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    1. Hi Amy, thanks for the tip! I love Alton Brown and Good Eats. I will have to search his online archives. I've always has a good experience with his recipes! ~Angela

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  2. I've never used it. As far as pancakes, I don't use a mix when I make pancakes. I make them from scratch. However, I'm not on a gluten-free diet.

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    1. Hi Jolie, I love making them from scratch too. I use white wheat flour and add honey to the batter for my hubby. Now I need to find an equally yummy recipe for myself sans wheat. So far only the mixes turn out ok when I make them GF. Boo.... ~Angela

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  3. Wish I could be of help. What happened though is that you answered a question for me. The xanthun gum is so expensive that I was sort of afraid to try it and waste the money if it didn't work. I had the problem with rice flour too and just gave up on it honestly because I did not like how heavy and flat everything was. Good luck with your experiments!

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    1. Hi Tracy, Yes, xanthan gum is pricey! I always looked at it in the store and walked away. But, a few weeks ago I found it in a small yeast-like packet at Walmart for under a dollar! It's probably just enough for one recipe, but that's fine with me! I'll post if I come up with a successful recipe using xanthan gum! ~Angela

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  4. I've never seen it for sale on the shelves in the stores, very interesting to learn that this is an option for gluten free baking.
    More and more people are making the switch. It's great to know Angela! Especially if we have company and want to accommodate the needs of a gluten free guest.

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    1. Xanthan gum is a little difficult to find. I was shocked when I found it at Walmart. Otherwise, I can get it in the "natural foods" section of a local chain grocer. But, man is it expensive!

      If you have a gluten-free guest, I would opt for a mix (cake, brownies, cookies) just because you know it's fail proof and you won't have all those leftover ingredients. I really like the King Arthur cookie mix. It's super versatile. You can add choco chips or peanut butter for example and make different flavors using one base mix. ~Angela

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  5. I'm not on a gluten free diet,so I've never heard of xantham gum. But I have noticed an ever increasing selection of gluten free products on the supermarket shelves. Is there a test to see if you're gluten intolerant? Or is it just healthier to eat that way?

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    1. Hello! Yes, there are two types of tests to see if you are gluten-intolerant, or have Celiac Disease, which is essentially an allergy to gluten. One is a simple blood test. The other is an intestinal biopsy to see how much damage the gluten has done to the lining of the lower intestine.

      Eating gluten-free is healthier for those with an allergy to gluten. I know some people think going gluten-free is a "diet" or a "health fad". It's simply a way of dealing with an allergy. People who don't eat gluten need to eat other grains, such as rice, quinoa or corn, to eat a nutritionally balanced meal.

      Some people talk about losing weight by going gluten free. Well, sure. Stop eating all bread products, cake, cookies, salad dressing, etc. and you'll lose weight! But, a healthy gluten-free person is replacing those missing carbs with other grains -- so no calories are really lost.

      Check out my "G" post about gluten! http://wholefoodsliving.blogspot.com/2012/04/gluten-free-food-list.html

      ~Angela

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    2. Thank you for posting this. Too many people join the gluten free fad and don't realize that going gluten free can in fact be very unhealthy for the vast majority of people who have no allergy to gluten. If you do not have a celiac disease (only 1/2 to 1% of the population does, or a very rare wheat allergy you probably don't need to go glutyen free which deprives your body of the nutritional value of whole grains etc. Gluten sensitivity a highly questionable idea is used to sell gluten free goods, but most researchers say the number of people is less than 1% if it is even real at all. There is no test for it and the claim is based on people saying they just feel better after going gluten free which is probalby due simply to a change in eating habits in general by cutting down on carbs. And you are right about the weight loss claims. If your losing weight going gulten fee, you must have reduced your intake of food or at least carbs in general.

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  6. Hi Angela! I've heard of xanthan gum, but never really knew what it was. Guess that also tells you I've never used it before.

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    1. Hi Susanne! Thanks for stopping by. I had never even heard of it until I starting reading gluten-free cookbooks. GF baking is truly a whole new world! ~Angela

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  7. Hi Yes i have used it - a little goes along way - and if you over do it it can make for a gummy dough and can be very sticky when mixing - here is a video on youtube where they make a "basic flour" recipe...She uses xanthan gum in it ... http://youtu.be/bB0N7Q-abZA Hope it helps - I usually get it at my local health food store ....

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    1. Ohhh! Thanks for the link! I'm watching the video now and it seems very helpful and informative. Thanks for sharing with me and the Whole foods Living foodies! ~Angela

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  8. UPDATE! I've been using xantham gum regularly to make muffins, cookies and pancakes. Xantham gum truly is the secret to getting a "normal" texture in gluten-free baking!! As a bonus, you use very little in each recipe, so it's economical too! ~Angela

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  9. Recipe I have is 1tsp for 5 cups of bread flour unless the xanthan gum is already in the flour.

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  10. So were you able to use the xanthan gum from Walmart, or did another brand (store) work better?

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    1. Yes! I can't remember which brand it is (It's not "Walmart" brand). I believe it had a red package--probably Hodgson Mills. ~Angela

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  11. Wonderful...thanks for the info !! Can't wait to try my first GF baking recipe.

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